Energy & Environment

The real policy priorities of African-Americans

In June, President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a contentious and costly new set of regulations to reduce carbon emissions from American power plants. The measure, the public was told, would combat climate change. The president and the EPA’s sales pitch to the American people, and the African-American community in particular, even hinged on the contention that minority communities would be greatly aided by the administration’s efforts.

Many stakeholders, however, observed that behind the administration’s rhetoric exists a dangerous energy and economic proposition that spells trouble for African-American consumers and businesses. By effectively banning affordable coal based-electricity and transitioning the country toward an overreliance on more expensive alternative fuel sources, the EPA’s regulations will rapidly alter our nation’s energy portfolio. Such dramatic action will lead to higher power prices, posing a grave threat to all Americans who rely on affordable electricity, and will undermine job creation and growth in our still-recovering economy.

{mosads}With the midterm elections proving a need for real change, new polling data provides vital insights into the concerns of African-American voters. Not surprisingly, jobs and the economy, healthcare and education top the list. At the bottom? Climate change. In fact, nearly two-thirds of those African-American voters polled were far more concerned about the adverse economic effects of the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations than about the urgency of climate change as a national issue.

A mere 3 percent of those polled said that climate change had a significant impact on their community, a paltry figure compared to the 41 percent who felt unemployment had the greatest effect. Coinciding with concerns about jobs and the economy, over 80 percent of African-American voters said they are “very concerned” about their personal budgets, with three-fourths expressing particular concern about increasing energy prices. Instead of implementing economically harmful policies, like the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations, six out of 10 voters polled said they would rather see Obama support policies that protect access to affordable electricity.

These telling results put African-American voters at odds with the Obama administration. If the African-American community our president claims his climate change regulations will help doesn’t even find salience in the issue, one must ask: What are his true motives in making climate change such a cornerstone issue? Is it to solidify his political legacy? Is it to appease his wealthy, out-of-touch donors and supporters? Whatever the reason, African-American consumers will bear tremendous costs if the EPA’s proposal moves forward.

With so many pressing issues looming, both here at home and beyond our borders, President Obama has pursued his misguided climate change agenda with tunnel vision, ignoring the fundamental concerns of African-Americans. The African-American community is already gravely concerned about their personal and business budgets and finances, and the EPA’s climate change regulations will only exacerbate their financial woes. With important midterm elections last week, and the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, elected officials should pay close attention to these poll results to understand the real policy priorities of African-Americans.

Alford is the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Tags Climate change Environmental Protection Agency EPA

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